La Danse: Le Ballet de l’Opéra de Paris

Decidedly not for all tastes, this two-and-a-half hour long documentary takes a look behind the scenes of the Paris Opera Ballet and seven productions, some of which differ a lot in style. Those who have seen some of director Frederick Wiseman’s earlier work will recognize his modus operandi – the camera is a fly on the wall and there is no obvious narration, even though there is a plan behind the editing of the film. I know nothing about ballet, but was almost hypnotized by the dancing and rigorous practicing routines throughout the film. There seems to be no limit to how we can bend our bodies and use them in order to create beautiful art… as long as focus can be maintained. However, one’s attention wanders; this is primarily a movie for the senses, not a tool for information.

2009-France-U.S. 158 min. Color. Produced and directed by Frederick Wiseman.

Last word: “I first approached Brigitte Lefèvre, who is head of the company. She nominally reports to the head of the opera but she’s basically head of the ballet company and is autonomous. She’s been head for about 13, 14 years. I hope she comes across how she was, which was a competent, smart, sensible, direct woman. […] Her second in command had seen a whole bunch of my movies as there was a retrospective at the Cinemateque around the time that I was asking permission. He could then explain to her the way I work. What I then do is that I offered – she’d seen a couple too – and I explained how I worked and what I wanted to do and how it was going to be financed and that I was going to edit it and that I’d have editorial control and where it was going to be shown in the US and France. I always try to make a very straightforward presentation because I don’t want people coming back to me afterwards saying you didn’t tell me this or that.” (Wiseman, Time Out)

 

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